28 October 2015
A taser (without capitalization) is a weapon firing barbs attached by wires to batteries, causing temporary paralysis. We have even turned it into a verb, as in "Don't tase me, bro!"
But I saw TASER listed as an acronym, so I did some digging about its origin.
Jack Cover, a NASA researcher, began developing the Taser in 1969 and completed the device in 1974. The "Taser Public Defender" used gunpowder as its propellant, which meant it was classified as a firearm in 1976. Later improvements by the company Taser International to make the "Air Taser," made the U.S. firearms regulator, the ATF, change the classification to it not being a firearm.
In 2003, Taser International released a new weapon called the Taser X26, which used "shaped pulse technology" and in 2009 they released the X3, which can fire three shots before reloading.
Much more interesting to me is that Jack Cover created the name of his weapon from from reading one of the popular, pulp-fiction novels about Tom Swift. Fictional character Tom Swift is the protagonist of a series of books that were similar to the later Hardy Boys but with Tom inventing what in the time would be considered science-fiction. I read a number of these books as a kid and recall his "electric rifle."
The electric rifle was a gun that fires bolts of electricity and could be calibrated to different levels of range, intensity and lethality. It could shoot through solid walls without leaving a hole, but also kill an animal or human. The globe of light that it shot was compared to ball lightning.
Jack Cover came up with TASER which stands for Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle. This refers to the weapons marketed by Taser International. That middle initial (the 'A') was not part of Tom's name in the books, but added to created a pronounceable acronym.